King Krule: Space Heavy – A patchwork quilt of styles that slowly unravels

Archy Marshall’s hard-to-categorise fourth album lacks focus

Space Heavy
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Artist: King Krule
Genre: Pop
Label: XL Recordings

Archy Marshall’s mind is an intriguing place. The 28-year-old Londoner also known as King Krule has been open about issues in his childhood and mental-health struggles throughout his life, often documenting them in song form over the course of his four albums. Marshall’s unconventional approach to music has also left many listeners flummoxed by attempts to categorise him: there are elements of indie, jazz, electronics and, on Space Heavy, even what sounds like grunge.

That patchwork quilt of styles isn’t always effective, though. There is an enjoyably meandering strand to songs such as Flimsier, which ebbs and flows between languid twangy guitar and a fuzzy electronic undercurrent, but Marshall’s murmured vocals are often difficult to decipher as he bends his disembodied voice around experimental chord changes, sax solos and scattered, jazz-influenced drum beats.

Then again, perhaps that’s the point. He wrote this album during commutes between his homes in London and Liverpool mid-pandemic, so the sense of disorientation and impermanence is appropriate. The off-kilter, improvised tilt of Pink Shell, with elements of Baxter Dury and Damon Albarn, is a highlight, as are the wheezy see-saw of Seaforth and the ominous, offbeat Wednesday Overcast. It’s an album that requires careful listening to get a handle on. With a little more focus and a smidgen less rambling it could have been infinitely more memorable.

Lauren Murphy

Lauren Murphy

Lauren Murphy is a freelance journalist and broadcaster. She writes about music and the arts for The Irish Times